Grab machine rises over the unfinished canal, 1918-1922 :: Rochester NY. Barge Canal: By the early 20th century the original Erie Canal, which went through the center of Rochester, proved to be too narrow and too shallow for commercial service. It was closed, "dewatered", and transformed into a subway. Commercial traffic was diverted south around the city on the Barge canal to cross the Genesee River. These changes were part of a redesign of the old canal, renaming it the Barge Canal.